Interview With Powerlifter & US Air Force Serviceman Michael "Breaker" Schwanke As told to CriticalBench.com by Donnie Kiernan - August 2008
The following interview with elite level powerlifter, Mike Schwanke took place in late July, 2008, Shortly after he totaled a all-time record 2502lbs in the 220lb weight class. Special Thanks go out to Mike Schwanke, Mike Westerdal and Christos Meimaroglou(outside editor).
Hello, and welcome to traintostandard.com's interview of world class powerlifter and current United States Air Force serviceman, Mike Schwanke. Thanks for sitting down and answering some questions for us. First off, how long have you been strength training and when did you begin competing in powerlifting?
MS: I've been actively competing for about five years now; overall time in basic weight training is around ten years. My first sanctioned meet was the NGBB APF GA State Meet, where my dumbass bombed out in the squat due to inexperience. Three months later when I was finished licking my wounds, I did The SC APF State Meet and totaled Elite.
You recently squatted 1003lbs and totaled 2502lbs in 220lbs Body weight class. That's insane, take us through your training cycle leading up to that meet.
MS: Well, to be fully honest each training cycle is a constant reassessment of previous results. Plus I am always seeking advice from experienced or pro-level lifters as well. Prior to my 2502lbs total I had some serious issues with my squat form; strength was there but form was not. I contacted good friend Brain Carroll for some training advice, we talked for a while and finally figured out what was going on with my training.
The conclusion was quite simple: not enough free squatting was being done. I had been prone to base my whole training cycle off box squatting and, come meet time, I was not used to free squatting heavy weight! The bench was the same deal, contacted Clint Smith and started taking down notes from what he had to say to me. I always feel that you need to consult the best to become better, and that is usually the approach with everything I do. As far as Deadlifting... well, I just have a natural build for it and it is just one of those lifts that comes naturally for me.
How long have you been in the Military; you used to serve in the Army, correct?
MS: Yes I am "Ex" Army, served in the US Army Corp of Engineers for almost seven years.
Why did you switch services?
MS: Simple, I was tired of being treated like shit and wanted more opportunities in my life. I had a certain Platoon Sergeant that was the definition of "worthless" and hid behind the rank quite well-- "do as I say, not as I do" kind of attitude!
You do what many of our readers have trouble doing: Being strong as hell, while still maintaining military PT standards. How do you do it, and do you have help from your chain of command?
MS: Yes, my flight leadership has been very supportive of my training! Now it is not the same everywhere you go, but I have been truly blessed here. This leads me to my next point, the Military Spots Program-- which, in my opinion, just flat out sucks! I have battled with them in the past trying to get something standardized so all military personal can have the same events and opportunities to compete at. I have all but now abandoned that chase, due to the fact I never could get anywhere with them.
Seeing that you're required to do more cardio than most power lifters, how do you adjust your diet to maintain your training weight?
MS: Again, I have good leaders that care for my moral and for what I do. I do run every week at least two miles, but for strength training that is really pushing it close. Since you start to mix slow twitch and fast twitch muscles, you can do both just in moderation. But, you do have some of these old corn-ball commanders that think everyone should be some marathon runner-- not the case; we are all built differently and have our own physical attributes!
How important is it to have a group of likeminded training partners?
MS: It's critical. You cannot survive without them; they are the ones who are behind the success of an individual.
You train with guys like Tommy Fannon and Mike Westerdal at Tampa Barbell. How much have they contributed to your success in powerlifting?
MS: I owe them a huge debt. Tommy has built, in my opinion, the best barbell club ever! Three mono lifts, three competition benches, two power racks and a whole slew of other goodies! He has been a great coach and friend to me; it has done nothing but wonders for my training. Mike has also been a huge help as well. He trains with me and also helps handle me at meets.
You've squatted over ½ ton, totaled over 2500lbs in the 220lbs class, what's next for you in powerlifting?
MS: One simple word, "Improvement," cannot say what is next for me, really. I have goals and would love to achieve them. But I hate to predict numbers; I believe it's bad karma and it makes you look like an ass when you don't achieve them.
Do you plan on staying in the service for a while?
MS: Certainly, once I get my twenty in, then it's my time to punch out!
Mike, Thanks again for answering some questions with us today. Do you have any shameless plugs
that you'd like to throw out there? Any final thoughts, comments or suggestions?
MS: Just stay positive in bad situations; some good usually comes out in the end. Also, take advice from lifters that actually know what the hell they are talking about-- stay away from your palace posers! I also would like to take the time and thank my sponsors: Inzer Advanced Designs, APT Pro Wristwraps and Critical Bench.com.
Stop by and visit me at the Critical Bench Muscle Forum.
Michael Schwanke 700 Bench & 800 Pull
The interviewer Donnie Kiernan is an amateur strongman competitor and a member of the United States Army Reserves. His training methods, interviews of strength athletes and articles can be viewed at Train to Standard. His website caters to military and civil service members, as well as everyday people, who want to incorporate strength training with cardiovascular and plyometric exercises.